As the car pulled up outside our house tonight I had tears in my eyes. I tried to brush them away in a, gosh my glasses are so dirty, diversion tactic before Commando saw them and asked what was wrong. I didn’t want to get into that conversation because, frankly, I wasn’t all that sure what was wrong myself. All I knew was I had a horrible feeling of things passing me by. I was thinking about my birthday, just a few months away, and the fact that I am about to enter the last year of my forties. It feels like my youth is over, all those endless possibilities stretching before me now seem to be behind me.
I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror in the ladies at Dream Factory before I left work and there was something in that reflection that reminded me of Mother. I think that’s where it started. It’s not that I actually look all that much like her, Mother was always a big woman, over six foot tall while I wouldn’t look out of place in an audition for a part as a dwarf in a production of Snow White. She was also morbidly obese. I have vivid memories of her squeezing herself into a Miss Mary of Sweden girdle in an attempt to tame the mountain of flesh that was her body. Despite this she was a loud and cheerful woman, always the life and soul of any event. Too loud in my eyes, too much larger than life. She always put me in mind of the fat cartoon ladies on seaside postcards. I was quite a shy child and spent a lot of time trying to blend into the background and pretend I didn’t know her.
Mother was forty when I was born, which was quite old to be having a baby in those days. When I was a child people often thought she was my grandmother. I’ve got a sister, Alex, but she was fifteen when I was born and got married when I was four. She’s short like me but also morbidly obese, if anything she’s bigger than Mother. Although, looking back, I was a normal, slightly chubby, child, I was fat by association. In my family I was the skinny one but in my head I was fat.
At the tender age of twelve I read a magazine article about dieting. It was the first time I realised it was possible to lose weight and get thin like all the other girls at school. So began a lifetime of yo yo diets. What I saw in the mirror was nothing like the reality, I can see that now from the old photos. As a teenager I had a bit of puppy fat but, in my late teens, it more or less melted away. I was size fourteen for most of my twenties which is hardly huge, even for a shorty like me. I was a curvy hourglass kind of girl when the fashion was for straight up and down. The yo-yoing took it’s toll as the years passed and by my thirties I was size sixteen. Then, in my early forties I developed endometriosis and polycystic ovaries. My weight ballooned, no matter what I did. If anything the diets were making me fatter. Every time I lost a couple of pounds I put on a couple more than I’d lost. That was when I decided that I’d give up on the diets before I got as big as the rest of my family, I’d just learn to live with myself as I was. At forty four I had a hysterectomy but the weight remained.
What put me in mind of Mother when I looked in the mirror today was the fat. While I’ll never be as tall as her and I’m by no means as wide, I’m heading that way. I’ve got a double chin and a huge shelf for a bosom. There are rolls where my, too tight, trousers cut into the place my waist should be and my hips and thighs are just acres of wobbling flesh. I look fat and I look old. The trousers that are bursting at the seams are size eighteen, I bought them in Wallis because I know their sizes are generous and they’re a loose fitting style. At least they’re supposed to be loose fitting, on me they’re skin tight. I’ve always loved clothes but these days I hardly ever go shopping because I don’t want to have to buy size twenty, or worse. I can’t even remember the last time I weighed myself and I’m too frightened of what I might learn to even think about it.
Commando, bless his heart, says he loves me just as I am. We’ve been married for half our lives and he doesn’t seem to have noticed my ever expanding girth. He’s tall and slender, although he eats like a horse. I, on the other hand, have quite a small appetite, but you’d think it was the other way around. I feel like a little balloon of a woman next to him. I don’t doubt that he loves me but I’m not sure why, or how long that will continue. The thing is I just don’t love myself.